Nancy Snow, Ph.D.
Alhurra Television is the most recognized and
criticized brand of the family of
Less than two months after Barack Obama’s historic
inauguration as president, Alhurra launched its most ambitious program to
date, “Al Youm,” Arabic for “Today.”
A groundbreaking three-hour prime time evening program, “Al Youm” is
changing not only the reputation of Alhurra in the
A Network is Born
On February 14, 2004, the U.S. government launched a
commercial-free 24-hour Arabic language satellite broadcasting television
network called Alhurra (Al Hurra), translated from the Arabic as “The Free”
or “The Free One.”[ii]
The timing of the launch could not be more critical for
Alhurra Television did not develop in direct response
to the war in
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
regularly denounced Al Jazeera as a pro-terrorist network for its decision
to air every video of Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and represent the Taliban
Alhurra was the brainchild of Norman Pattiz, who also
created its “sister” radio predecessor, Radio Sawa (Arabic for “Together”),
which was launched in 2002. An outspoken advocate for free and U.S.-friendly
media in the Middle East, Pattiz remains today a very successful commercial
broadcasting executive and founder of radio giant Westwood One, based in
Culver City, California. During
the Bush administration, Pattiz, a prominent Democratic Party contributor,
was chair of the Middle East Committee at the Broadcasting Board of
Governors. The BBG (bbg.gov) is
the bipartisan oversight board that is responsible for all nonmilitary
U.S.-sponsored international media, including Voice of America, Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti in
The Alhurra Paradox
Pattiz viewed these new
Al Jazeera’s name means “The Island” or “The Peninsula” in Arabic, which refers to its independent news status in the region. Though funded by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, Al Jazeera’s programming pits opposing points of views against one another, and holds onto its “contextually objective” news status in the eyes of many viewers.[ix] It remains the most popular Arab language television network 13 years after its launch on November 1, 1996.[x] Al Jazeera’s political independence status vis-à-vis Alhurra did not go unnoticed by many media commentators. As Salon writer Anthony York pointed out before Alhurra’s official launch: “There’s a paradox in its founding: Just as viewers in Arab countries are turning away from state-run programming and embracing independent networks like Al-Jazeera, the U.S. is trying to compete with what is essentially state-run programming, only run by the U.S., not an Arab government.”[xi]
Early media and public opinion reaction to Alhurra was decidedly critical, as illustrated by a March 9, 2004, essay by this author for O’Dwyer’s PR Daily, republished on Common Dreams and other global media Web sites:
Al Hurra-Al Who?: Haven’t heard? We’re Free, They’re Not!
Some three weeks ago the
Al Hurra’s free press mandate is to challenge what the U.S.
the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees international
perceive as the hate media in the Arab region. In particular, Al
Hurra offers a
President Bush says that Al Hurra will help combat “the hateful
propaganda that fills the
airwaves in the Muslim world and tell people the truth about the values
policies of the
While you might think that eyeballs would be glued to the U.S.-declared truthful alternative, so far no one is fully embracing the “free one” version, despite financing of $62 million in congressional funding for the first year alone.
A quick review of some of the global media reaction spells trouble
for Al Hurra. Arab
newspaper editorials have been universally thumbs down on the new
broadcast alternative, with the not unexpected negative reaction of “it’s
American propaganda, anyway.” The
Cairo Times said that many
remain “guarded” in their reaction and are suspicious of the new
propagandistic potential to shape news from a pro-U.S., pro-Israeli
perspective. The most prestigious Arabic-language newspaper,
Al Ahram, said “It is difficult to
understand how the
Arab News, the
The former minister of information in
CNN did dominate the Arab airwaves in the early 1990s but this was during the last war in the Gulf and before Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya came along to challenge this English-language global media station that was accessible to only English-speaking elites in the region.
What remains to be seen is if those who initially condemn the network will find curiosity getting the best of them and sneak a peek, if nothing else, to see if Al Hurra offers anything new and different in both content and production value.
Against a backdrop of anti-Americanism and an unfinished roadmap to
peace in the
Telling to some Arab viewers was that President Bush was the first
guest interviewed on Al Hurra.
Al Quds Al Arabi, a newspaper generally critical of the
The greatest hurdle to overcome seems to be in the naming of the
station itself. To
many, if Al Hurra represents “the free ones” then that makes “us” the
unfree ones. This magic bullet theory of communication
assumes that the sender’s need for
more free speech and more accurate information about itself in a
region coincides with the receiver’s needs.
But many naysayers to Al Hurra say that the
One magazine writer, Amy Moufai, told an NBC News producer in
A government-led free press is a harsh reminder of a region dominated by unfree governments. And no slick slogans or pretty newsroom sets are going to overcome those realities.
Norman Pattiz and Middle East Broadcasting president
Brian Conniff defend Alhurra as a voice in the Arab Middle East, not
They do not see the U.S.-sponsored media in the Arab Middle East as
trying to compete with Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, or any other popular Arab
language media, but rather showing up in the news mix.
Conniff said that a common misperception about Alhurra’s existence is
that it was created as a direct reaction to Al Jazeera’s influence and seeks
to go head-to-head with this most popular Arab network.
Alhurra will never be able to compete with Al Jazeera, says Conniff,
and this is not its primary function.[xii]
Presenting a free and independent news service in the interest of
Pattiz explains that Alhurra serves the goals and
According to BBG board member Joaquin F. Blaya, Alhurra
SEN. KAUFMAN: Can you spend a few minutes and just talk about how you maintain broadcasting quality?
MR. BLAYA: Senator, I know this was, while you were at the BBG, always one of your main concerns. And you were the first person that described to me how it is that this was done. So I have it in front of me, and I will go in details because of the importance that you’ve always placed on it.
First of all, the U.S. was the first country that broadcast in the languages of the audiences that it wanted to reach, versus a BBC -- you know, that was all in English.
Secondly, it was essential that we have the native language capabilities, and that means that up through the management chain, the regional division directors and editors, they all speak the native language.
The second point was the editorial controls and guidance, which were established years ago. We rely on the expertise and judgment of language service heads and line editors to ensure that the news met the highest standards of professional journalism.
Third, we have a performance review process which includes independent audience market research. We undergo rigorous annual review performed by an office separate from the language service itself.
This review incorporates a wide range of research inputs by BBG global research programs.
Fourth, we have specific program evaluations. We commission, when circumstances warrant, leading schools of journalism, as we have recently done with Missouri and Washington University and other expert bodies, to conduct specific, in-depth programming evaluations.[xvi]
Despite Blaya’s glowing assessment of Alhurra’s reach and
quality control of its programming and a supportive
Linzer’s series of articles in 2008 and 2009 for the
independent news site ProPublica reflect an international broadcasting
environment battling woes on many fronts: employee dissatisfaction and mixed
reviews from outside evaluators, despite an uptick in its funding.
A July 2008 evaluation by the
Section 303 of the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (as
amended) calls for,
among other provisions,
Within this framework, the challenges facing Alhurra as it seeks to attain excellence in carrying out its mandate are those that must be addressed by all news organizations:
· Ensuring comprehensiveness of coverage; providing the breadth that the audience expects.
· Imposing discipline in producing the news product to protect against personal and institutional biases that can infect a news product.
· Offering diverse viewpoints about important issues from sources whose backgrounds and expertise contribute to a balanced news product.
· Avoiding rumor and other unsubstantiated material.
· Thoughtfully and thoroughly addressing the topics of greatest interest to the target audience, such as religion and local democratization efforts.
Add to these Alhurra’s
additional duty to reflect and promote
USC’s study employed a two-pronged methodology: content
analysis of all Alhurra news and topical programming in November 2007
followed by focus group analysis among experts (Arab media professionals and
A study by Kent S. Collins, chairman of the
Radio-Television Journalism faculty at the
thus, has a competitive opportunity unlike any other television operation
Alhurra Television’s fast-track development is unrivaled in American
Clearly, journalism everywhere is subject to criticism and
That said, Alhurra Television must now take two big steps: radically
These two reports were quite clear that Alhurra’s durability depended on its ability to provide original quality programming with content that mattered to its viewership. The American people may be funding such programming, but not directing its content. Only quality content would matter to Alhurra’s audience, which seems to be the rationale behind the launch of a potentially risky program. Unlike much of network news television that is prerecorded, “Al Youm” is live and operates simultaneously in five news bureaus. If successful, the payoff was great: “Al Youm” would become the cornerstone of Alhurra.
A Network Matures: Alhurra to “Al Youm”
Alhurra was launched on February 14, 2004. Five years and a month later on March 8, 2009, Alhurra launched its groundbreaking news program, “Al Youm” (Arabic for Today), based on the successful American network morning program, NBC’s “The Today Show.” Although the American model broadcasts in the morning, “Al Youm” originates its three-hour live daily broadcast from five countries on three continents during the prime time viewing hours of the evening.
In order to assess audience reception to “Al Youm’s” 2009 launch, sample media coverage of “Al Youm” was provided by the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which oversees “Al Youm” and Alhurra. In addition, the author conducted an independent survey of online news stories about “Al Youm” in its first ten months of operation. The response has been overwhelming positive and a marked contrast to the negative coverage that had dominated the media landscape about Alhurra from 2004-2008.
Based on a content analysis of these news media stories,
and supplemented by several interviews (person-to-person and email) with “Al
Youm” staff and management, Alhurra’s image in 2009 improved from that of
the original tagline of “controversial” U.S.-sponsored Arab language
satellite television network.
The positive reception to “Al Youm” has helped to shepherd in a rebranding
opportunity for Alhurra from the Bush administration-era image of a
Several features of “Al Youm” make it appealing to the
Mona Wehbe, one of the Dubai-based anchors, told
Arabian Woman magazine before the
program launched that the objective of “Al Youm” is “a comprehensive show
that addresses all the issues that concern people, whether cultural,
political, social or health.
It’ll cover a wide range of subjects such as the latest technology, sports
Interview with “Al Youm” Executive Producer
Every successful television program has quality staff
behind its product. The key to a
successful news program, whether it’s the “Today Show” or “Al Youm,” is its
executive producer. I sat down
with Fran Mires, executive producer of Al Youm, for a two-hour interview on
Monday, November 30, 2009, at the headquarters of Alhurra in
I shared with Mires that I come to public diplomacy with a
long association, mostly in the area of cultural and educational exchanges
as a Fulbright Scholar and as a cultural affairs specialist.
From 1992-1994 I worked at the agency responsible for
Mires acknowledged that it’s completely understandable
that people have the perception that Alhurra is propaganda.
It took nine trips during a period of 16 months to find the top staff that she considers crucial to quality programming. She personally interviewed every one of the 130 staff members, “from the cameraman to the anchor,” an unusual and timely employment process, but one which Mires considered mandatory to a successful rollout of “Al Youm.” “At the end of the day, it’s your skill. The 130 in five countries is what the show is all about. They are very educated, fabulous journalists.” Her editor in chief worldwide for “Al Youm” is a former Al Arabiya TV executive. She plucked the best journalists from Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic.
“Al Youm’s” success is derived from delivering the news in
a non-ideological and non-political context.
It doesn’t get bogged down in a contested choice of words, i.e.,
“occupied territories” versus disputed territories.
It includes human interest features, breaks new ground with a female
anchor’s trip to
A point of great pride for Mires is that in its first 10
months of programming, not once has the live feed gone to black, quite an
accomplishment for a live program with five bureaus.
Mires credits BBG board member Blaya, a veteran television journalist
himself, for originating the concept of “Al Youm” in 2007.
Blaya is the former chairman of Univision and Telemundo, and served
as Mires’ chairman at the Telemundo Network.
It took a couple of years to find the right producer to launch the
program successfully. Mires is
keenly aware that had the launch of “Al Youm” been unsuccessful, it would
have cast a dark cloud over Alhurra’s legitimacy.
This is why she insisted on directly interviewing and hiring the
staff from the bottom to the top, going against the grain in television
production by not using a headhunter organization.
After spending time with Mires in the Alhurra studio in
I followed up my interview with Mires on November 30,
2009, with a sit-down interview with Brian Conniff, president of the Middle
East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) on December 15, 2009.
Conniff attributes Alhurra’s maturation from an initial general
purpose channel to a fine-tuned focus on regional news and information
channel. It has two pillars: (1)
news and information from the Middle East; and (2) news and information
Alhurra has always been strong on the policy side through shows like “Inside Washington” or “Directions” that examine policies and perspectives with participants from D.C.-area think tanks. More recently Alhurra has expanded its coverage into “Wall Street,” a timely show given the economic meltdown and growing viewer interest in economic and financial matters. Conniff says that Alhurra is the only Arab-language network that focuses on the financial sector. Al Jazeera is known almost exclusively for its politics and policy coverage. Alhurra sees an opportunity in being a niche network that covers politics as well as many other sectors, including macroeconomics like the global financial downturn to microeconomics like jobs and employment.
I asked Brian Conniff about the Obama effect related to
Alhurra. He confirmed that
viewers are giving Alhurra a second look due to Obama’s election.
Whereas some viewers may have viewed Alhurra as an extension of the
Bush doctrine or Bush administration, after November 4, 2008, there was a
shift in mentality. Not only was
Alhurra still airing, but there was a new president and new team.
This signaled not only a change in leadership at the top of the
American government, but also a change in programming at Alhurra.
Interviews with “Al Youm” Staff
In December 2009, the author submitted a series of general
and specific questions to several reporters and anchors of “Al Youm.”
The questions were emailed to Deirdre Kline, director of
communications for the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, who facilitated
contact with staff in the
(1) What attracted you to work for “Al Youm?”
(2) What did you know about the U.S.-government funded program, Al Hurra, before working for the network?
(3) Who is your target audience for “Al Youm?”
(4) What is different about “Al Youm” from other Middle-East based programs?
(5) How do you
think journalism is changing in the
Questions (More Specific)
(6) How is the
perception of Al Hurra affecting the perception of “Al Youm” in the
(7) How does
(8) How does the “Al- Jazeerah effect” impact your show and (or) channel?
(9) How can “Al
Youm” give a voice to the people of the
(10) With such
high level of censorship of media in the
(1) Al Youm is a very unique program. It is the only program in the Arab world that broadcasts from five countries. I especially like that there is no advertising on the program. Other channels and programs can become beholden to the advertisers and you can see that on-air. We don’t have to worry about that with Al Youm.
I was a fan of Al Youm before I came to work for it. I even tuned in the first day to watch it. I liked the fact that it had a quick pace. It is very interesting and there are a variety of topics. I liked the idea that each day is different; you are not discussing the same issues every day. It requires a lot of research, but in the end it is very rewarding.
(2) I knew that Alhurra was funded by the U.S. Congress. When the network first launched I would hear that it was pro-Israeli and pro-American. However when I started to watch Al Youm and the channel, I saw that it was not biased at all. Now that I work here, I can see first-hand that Al Youm and Alhurra show all sides of a topic or issue we are discussing.
(5) The level
of journalism has definitely changed in the
(7) Since I had
been on Egyptian television before coming to Al Youm, I would be stopped on
the streets in
(9) We are all
Arabs who work on the program. So, of course, we present the voice of the
1. There were two main aspects that attracted me to
Al Youm. The first thing is the variety that Al Youm offers its viewers, not
only the different topics, but also different perspectives on these topics.
You will talk about one subject and get the view from
Eman Haddad added the following observation specific to
stories covered by the
Since we have a studio in
Badiaa Samir, “Al Youm” Senior Producer in
Several points attracted me such as:
(1a) Al Youm is the first talk show in the
b) Working in a daily talk show is a challenge for any
journalist as it requires constant and accurate follow up for most of the
current news and events that take place in the countries that each bureau
covers. Thus it widens the horizon of work by covering events that take
c) Being a member of a station that is diversified and
full of employees of different nationalities, ideologies and belongings;
interacting with them daily; enriches the horizon of thinking of any
journalist and is even a source of inspiration that I do believe is highly
reflected in our coverage and tackling different topics. Never forget that
the Alhurra name in
d) There is an opportunity for in-depth discussion on several suggested topics with Executive Producer Fran Mires along with the other journalists working in the show; an opportunity that I personally didn’t witness in any other Arabic stations.
(2) Most of the people in
(3) Targeted audience for Al Youm show is Arab adults (both women and men) from different political and social and educational stratus. Since the show is broadcast from five different countries, it gives us a wide range of viewership as people from different countries are watching
(4) The points of difference are:
a- Al Youm is a totally pan-Arab show, while most of
b- Most of the Arabic talk shows are based on spotlighting the disputes and the differences between opinions in a way that is not journalistically sound. They focus on getting the guests to quarrel on air.
While Al Youm tries to show the audience the in-depth perspective without giving the door for personal benefits to any parties.
c- Al Youm has the accessibility to show not only the
East but also to introduce to the Arabic viewer to the
d- The pace of the program is the first of its kind in
e- Al Youm focuses the spotlight on the successful stories, new inventions, forgotten heroes or even small projects that open a door of hope to people. Al Youm is very keen to look to the full part of the glass not just to focus on the empty part.
f- Presenting a magazine show like Al Youm that covers politics, current affairs, social issues, health and entertainment makes Al Youm different.
(5) Journalism is changing a lot in the
(6) Al Youm is a program that is aired in Alhurra Channel, thus, they’re related.
People in the beginning, since the inauguration of the channel, were astonished about the high level of technology provided by the channel and Al Youm is a continuation in this point. Alhurra is classified as a News Channel and Al Youm for the first time is presenting a mixture of politics, social, economic, health and entertainment segments; all in one meal. I believe that Al Youm’s objective way of covering stories meets Alhurra standards. Al Youm is a continuation of Alhurra objectives.
(7) Alhurra is a credible source of information.
(8) As the audience became more aware of the agenda of Al Jazeera and I think that this has a positive impact on Alhurra.
(9) Al Youm is like a mirror that reflects exactly how things exist. You can see this through Al Youm’s cameras sniffing the unspoken stories to reveal the truth without any personal benefit or seeking a political stand.
As a channel that is funded by the Congress and overseen by the BBG, we enjoy the fact that we don’t have any person dictating us what to cover and what to say. We have a professional team that guides us to ensure attaining objectivity and transparency in covering not more.
We succeeded to cover stories that other channels are asking us about its sources and how to reach it. Al Youm is gaining as a credible show that covers everything and thus our sources became eager to inform us about their events or stories due to their trust of our balanced coverage.
We are keen to touch the layman pulse; covering stories from the ground not just judging from above and the audience is smart.
10) I believe that high level of censorship doesn’t curtail honest reporting; it can hinder the ability of coverage but the honesty is a methodology that journalists should follow according to the journalistic ethics. As mentioned above, nowadays journalism is witnessing a wide range of freedom and the puzzle became not “having the permission to cover” but became how you as a journalist are honest in your reporting. Sticking to journalism rules in answering the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why) and separating your beliefs in your coverage and choosing extremely precise and accurate wording is the key to success; in addition to maintaining fairness in visuals, editing, selecting appropriate guests to the tackled topics.
Amr Khalil, “Al Youm’s”
(1) The name of Alhurra was the first to attract me of course. As a presenter, I wanted to reach high levels of professionalism and work experience. Where can you do that better that “free one”?
(2) Of course once Alhurra announced its intention to
launch Al Youm, the news spread among the media production community; not
(4) In our program we don’t play on the audience’s emotions as [a] number of other programs in the region do. Al Youm is the first program in our region to have such great scale of diversity, both in coverage and topics since we originate from five countries in three continents. The show is unique as it moves through the different political, economic, cultural, sports, art and entertainment issues.
(5) I think during the last 10 years the media is freer to discuss what were considered in the past “Red line issues.” On the other hand this development was accompanied by a lack of objectivity in many cases.
(6) Of course both Alhurra and Al Youm have the same
vision regarding the issues in the
(7) I think the reaction has been very good, because we are providing the audience something new and different.
(10) The margin of freedom now is not comparable to the last decade. Now the media has the ability to discuss sensitive issues more freely in many cases. As for Al Youm we report the truth, we cover all issues without being a part of the story, which gives us a great deal of credibility.
I came to this case study project with a history of
criticism of Alhurra. I had
published numerous essays about
MIDDLE EAST BROADCASTING NETWORKS REVISED JOURNALISTIC CODE OF ETHICS (MAY 2007)
JOURNALISTIC CODE OF ETHICS
MBN’s mission is to broadcast news which is
consistently accurate, authoritative, objective, balanced and comprehensive.
MBN strives to serve as a model of the free marketplace of ideas and a free
press in the American tradition, promoting freedom, democracy and human
rights, including freedom of religion. Additionally, MBN has a mandate to
present the policies of the
MBN journalists shall do their utmost to ensure that all broadcasts are factually accurate. Where doubt or controversy exists on significant points of fact, information must be based on at least two independent sources. No program material shall be broadcast that is based on rumor or unsubstantiated information.
Any documents, video or audio obtained from outside sources must be properly authenticated.
Factual errors will be corrected on-air as soon as possible.
Information shall be reported or discussed in a factual, objective context that enhances understanding of the events and issues and provides clarity without distortion or bias. Objective language shall be used to reflect events and issues accurately and dispassionately. Broadcasters shall present opposing or differing views accurately and in a balanced manner on all issues. When groups or individuals whose views are important for balanced programming decline to comment, it is appropriate to note this on the air.
MBN shall be independent from any political party, ruling or opposition group or organization, émigré organization, commercial or other special-interest organization, or religious body, whether inside or outside the broadcast area; and shall not endorse or advocate any specific political, economic, or religious viewpoint.
MBN does not provide an open platform for terrorists or those who support
them. This has long been the policy of all
ANALYSIS, COMMENTARY AND EDITORIALS
All broadcasts should contain sufficient background information and explanation to enable the audience to better understand the significance and consequences of information being reported.
Journalists shall not insert their personal opinions or judgments in factual reports at any time.
Failure to abide by this policy constitutes grounds for termination of employment.
Material that is primarily analytical will be clearly labeled as such, to distinguish it from factual news reporting and commentary.
Analysis provides background information, explanation, and differing authoritative views on an issue or event—but states no personal opinion on the part of the speaker. Analysis is preferred over commentary.
Commentary, which is to be clearly labeled as such, is analytical in content and judicious in tone but reflects the personal judgment or opinion of the speaker on a particular issue.
TONE OF MODERATION AND RESPECT
Broadcasts, including talk shows and debates, shall at all times maintain a calm and professional tone and shall project a model of civilized, reasoned discourse, as well as respect for the human rights of all persons. Broadcasters and guests shall not make religious, ethnic, socio-economic or cultural slurs upon any person or groups and shall observe common standards of etiquette and taste.
Broadcasts shall not contain material which could be construed as an incitement to violence.
Programming on disturbances or other tense situations must be balanced and factual. MBN will not permit its programs to be used as a platform for terrorist organizations.
AVOIDANCE OF ADVOCACY
MBN supports freedom, democracy and the human rights common to democratic states. However, MBN does not advocate the adoption of specific policies or legislation, or endorse or oppose candidates for elected or appointed office.
MBN staff members and contributors shall maintain the highest ethical standards in all conduct, taking particular care to avoid any conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof, in their relations with individuals, groups and/or political or commercial interests inside or outside the broadcast area. MBN staff members and contributors shall remain free of associations and activities that could, or could appear to, compromise their integrity, damage their credibility or jeopardize their journalistic independence. They shall refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations to the extent any of these could compromise journalistic integrity. MBN staff members and contributors shall in no way abuse their status as public figures, or the good reputation of MBN, to promote personal interest or gain.
In keeping with this policy, MBN employees are not permitted: (a) to appear on radio or television programs, in print, or in commercial advertising under their own names or pseudonyms; (b) to write (under their own names or pseudonyms) for publication (electronic or otherwise) on any topic; or (c) to serve in an advisory capacity for any media organization or political or advocacy group without the express written prior permission of the vice president for News.
Interviews must be unrehearsed and specific questions must not be submitted in advance. It is permissible to discuss in advance with the interviewee the purpose of the interview and the general subjects to be covered. All recorded interviews are subject to editing and no MBN staff member or contractor may represent to anyone that an interview will be carried in full. The raw or edited film, tape, other electronic version of the interview or transcript may not be shown to or played for an interviewee or representative in advance of its broadcast, nor may the interviewee or a representative participate in the editing of the interview.
EDITING AND PRODUCTION STANDARDS
All persons who edit reports, interviews and other materials for air shall ensure that their editing reflects fairly, honestly and without distortion what was seen and heard by MBN reporters and recorded by our cameras and microphones.
Page 26 Employee Handbook
Interviews are to be edited in a straightforward manner, preserving, even in short sound bites, the sense of the interview. Answers may not be taken out of context or edited together in a manner to change their meaning. The narration leading to a sound bite must reflect the question that elicited the response.
When a journalist at MBN uses facts gathered by any other organization, those facts must be attributed. This policy applies to material from newspapers, magazines, books, CDs and broadcasts, as well as to material taken from news agencies like Reuters, Agence France Presse and the Associated Press (for example, “the Secretary told Reuters”). In other words, even when we purchase news services, we do not treat the reporting done by others as reporting done by us. MBN’s preference, when time and distance permit, is to do our own reporting and verify another organization’s story; in that case, the reporter, correspondent or anchor need not attribute the facts. But even then, as a matter of courtesy and candor, the reporter, correspondent or anchor should credit an exclusive to the organization that first broke the news (for example, “CBS reported this morning ... .”). Attribution to another news organization, however, does not mean MBN’s journalists can broadcast rumors or allegations that would not independently meet the test of MBN’s own reporting standards, as set forth in this policy. Rumors and allegations must satisfy MBN’s standard of newsworthiness, taste and plausibility before being broadcast, even when attributed. And when the need arises to attribute, that is a good cue to consult with a senior producer or editor about whether broadcast is warranted at all. Thus, MBN would not permit the broadcast of a statement like this – “One Commissioner apparently accused another Commissioner of lying about the grain statistics, according to the Associated Press” – unless MBN had independently confirmed, in accordance with this policy, that “One Commissioner accused another Commissioner of lying about the grain statistics,” in which case attribution would not be necessary. In cases when it makes a difference whether MBN staffers or stringers directly witnessed a scene, MBN should distinguish on air between personal interviews and telephone or E-mail interviews, as well as written statements. [This policy was adapted from the plagiarism policy of The New York Times, which is available online at http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?id=408.]
[i] The Broadcasting Board of
Governors (BBG) encompasses all
As reported on the BBG website, “BBG broadcasters distribute programming in 60 languages to an estimated weekly audience of 175 million people via radio, TV, the Internet and other new media. The BBG works to serve as an example of a free and professional press, reaching a worldwide audience with news, information, and relevant discussions.” See “About the Agency” at http://www.bbg.gov/about/index.html
[iii] Al Jazeera’s Global Gamble: A PEJ Interview,” Project for Excellence in Journalism, August 22, 2006. http://www.journalism.org/node/1529
[iv] President George W. Bush,
Transcript of the State of the
[v] Ambinder, Marc. “How Al Jazeera
Outlasted Donald Rumsfeld,”
[vi] The BBG mission is legislatively supported by the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994 and the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998.
[vii] “Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV:
Performance Update,” Broadcasting Board of
Governors, October 27, 2009.
Survey research is done by ACNielsen
and D3 Systems (for
[viii] Pattiz, Norman. “Radio Sawa and
Opening Channels of Mass
Communication in the
[ix] Berenger, Ralph D. “Al Jazeera: In Pursuit of ‘Contextual Objectivity,’” Transnational Broadcasting Studies 13, Spring 2005. http://www.tbsjournal.com/Archives/Spring05/ReviewsBerenger.html
[x] Miles, Hugh.
Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News
Channel That Is Challenging the West.
Chapter Two: Making a Splash in the Arab
[xi] York, Anthony. “Propaganda or Journalism?” Salon. April 21, 2003. http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2003/04/21/television/
[xii] Author interview with Brian
Conniff, Alhurra Television Headquarters,
[xiii] Pattiz, Norman. “Radio Sawa and
Alhurra TV: Opening Channels of Mass
Communication in the
[xiv] Ibid., p. 71.
[xv] Senator Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Hearing of the International Operations and Organization Subcommittee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 15, 2009.
[xvii] Dafna Linzer, “Alhurra Bleeding Viewers, Poll Finds, But Spending is Up,” ProPublica, May 29, 2009.
[xviii] An Evaluation of Alhurra
Television Programming Conducted for the
Broadcasting Board of Governors,
[xix] Ibid., pp. 5-6.
[xx] Alhurra Television Focus Group
Research Project: Critique of Editorial
Content in order to Enhance News Judgment
and Build Journalistic Excellence.
on research focus groups in
[xxi] The phrase “elements of journalism” is in reference to the Kovach and Rosenstiel book, The Elements of Journalism. These elements include the following: (1) Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; (2) Its loyalty is to the citizens; (3) Its discipline is that of verification; (4) Journalism must be independent from sources; (5) It must serve—at times—as a watchdog; (6) Journalism should serve as a public forum for ideas and criticism; (7) It must be relevant and interesting (i.e., incorporate best practices of storytelling); and (8) Journalism must be comprehensive and proportional.
[xxiii] Arabian Woman review of “Al Youm” (no date), p. 21.
[xxiv] Author interview with executive
[xxv] Author interview with Brian
[xxvi] In the reply, “Fran” refers to executive producer of “Al Youm,” Fran Mires.
Religion, Media and International Affairs Programr /> Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
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Syracuse, NY 13244-1020